Generous discounts lured American to stores for holiday gifts in November, providing cheer and robust sales gains for retailers. That raises hopes, already buoyed by reports of crowded malls, for a strong holiday shopping season.
As retailers report their monthly results Thursday, it showed that many different types of shoppers were in the mood to buy, from the affluent to teens. Stores reporting gains that topped Wall Street expectations included Costco Wholesale Corp., Target Corp., the owner of Victoria's Secret and teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch.
That underscores that many people were not only buying gifts for others but throwing in items for themselves, including high-priced push-up bras and shoes.
The results are based on revenue at stores opened at least a year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health.
"I feel it is going to be a solid holiday season," said Madison Riley, retail strategist at Kurt Salmon Associates. "Still, shoppers are being careful."
The strong results from November followed tepid sales in September and October, dragged down in part by unseasonably warm weather. Americans, however, are still cautious about spending and are sticking to budgets amid job worries. And there's still concern shoppers are done buying for now and will wait last minute for the best holiday deals.
Encouraging economic signs may have consumers feeling better. Americans' income rose 0.5 percent in October, boosted by a 0.6 percent rise in wages and salaries, according to a government report released last month. That was after incomes didn't rise at all in September.
At the same time, layoffs are slowing. Initial jobless claims dropped by 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 407,000 in the week ending Nov. 20, the Labor Department said. Claims have fallen in four of the past six weeks.
The improvements helped to lift confidence to a five-month high in November, according to the Conference Board's monthly survey released Tuesday.
Costco Wholesale Corp. reported a 9 percent increase in revenue at stores open at least a year. That was above the 6.2 percent estimate expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters.
Target Corp. posted a 5.5 percent increase in revenue at stores opened at least a year, above the 3.7 percent estimate.
Limited Brands reported a 10 percent increase, exceeding the 4 percent estimate from Wall Street analysts.
Macy's Inc. reported a 6.1 percent; analysts had expected 5 percent. The department store chain raised its outlook for fourth-quarter earnings and revenue at stores opened at least a year.
Teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch reported a robust 22 percent gain, far above the 6.8 percent estimate.
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